NBA Draft 2001 Position Comparison: Centers
Center of Attention
The teams follow one of two selection theories when making their choices -- drafting according to need or drafting the best available player regardless of position. We're here to help with the first option through a weekly series of position comparisons, ranked and evaluated by NBA.com's Draft analyst, Brad Greenberg.
Greenberg brings 22 years of successful NBA and NCAA management and coaching experience to NBA.com as our player personnel expert. His roles included eight years in the personnel department of the Portland Trail Blazers and a stint as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. It was during Greenberg's tenure that the Sixers drafted league MVP Allen Iverson
NBA Draft 2001 doesn't have the immediate impact center of a Shaquille O'Neal
or a Tim Duncan
. But there are an unusually large number of young men with the size and potential to become future impact players.
Following are the top 10 centers available in NBA Draft 2001:
Year: HS Senior
Curry has great size and is perhaps the widest body in the draft. However, he is not anywhere close to being in world-class shape and is carrying extra weight on his frame. He has the potential to develop in a very strong big man. He also has promising hands.
His upside is evolving into a big time center with All Star potential. Right now, Curry is no more than a bigger version of Robert "Tractor" Traylor or Golden State's Marc Jackson, without Jackson's touch away from the basket. Whoever drafts him is doing so with the hope he becomes the former vs. the latter of that spectrum and must realize that he is still at least a few seasons away from being ready to contribute to a winning team in a significant way.
Working in Curry favor are reports that he has a good attitude and is a team player. He was named MVP of the McDonald's All-America Game after scoring 28 points, pulling down eight rebounds and blocking four shots. The Parade High School Player of the Year had committed to attend DePaul before becoming an early entry candidate for the 2001 NBA Draft.
Year: HS Senior
Diop is huge and still just 18 years old. Born in Senegal, many feel he is a better prospect than Brendan Haywood was at the same stage. He has shot blocking potential and is a pretty aggressive rebounder. The big question is whether or not he will be able to develop a legit inside game.
Last season Diop helped lead Oak Hill Academy to an undefeated season (33-0) and the No. 1 national ranking by USA Today. He averaged 14.6 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 8.1 blocks a game but missed the final five games of his season and the McDonald's All-American game with a stress fracture in his foot.
Diop's upside intrigues many and that could move him ahead of some older center prospects like Loren Woods and Haywood. NBA insider info is that his first workout in Atlanta went well and his stamina was impressive for someone so young and so big.
Bradley's feel for the game at the offensive end of the floor is perhaps the best of any center prospect in the draft. He is unselfish, poised and purposeful, but is not a special athlete. He has good size, is pretty strong and appears to be fairly tough, but he does not have especially good quickness, spring or speed.
Bradley has a "feel" for the game and a high basketball IQ. Efficiency is the 'buzz word" about him. Regardless, Bradley is one of the most efficient players you will ever see on the college level. He has a knack for moving into good spots to receive the ball close to the hoop and a feel for moving a defender intelligently to create and hold post up position. He is well rounded at the offensive end and capable of scoring around the basket with either hand. He is aware of double teams and is always scanning the action to locate a cutter or receiver if he senses extra help coming his way. Bradley can pass out of the post or off the move. He also has a comfort level to put the ball on the floor away from the basket facing or with his back to the basket to move his defender.
Bradley is not capable of playing a strong post up man right now but there are frontcourt players getting rotation minutes on a lot of teams that he can cover.
He should be able to develop into a rotation player for most teams and has the potential to evolve into a starter on the right winning team.
College: North Carolina
While far from a polished player, Haywood's size, bulk and experience enable him to get tight position and produce effectively at both ends of the floor. He carves out low-post position at both ends of the floor occupying defenders or clogging up the middle. He is another player who has benefited from staying in school to train in a more protective environment -- Haywood will have the opportunity to play immediately, as the majority of NBA rosters are pivotman-challenged.
He needs to improve his free throw shooting and his rebounding at the defensive end. Haywood is such a big target that it is difficult to keep the ball out of his hands. With his height and bulk, he is able to receive the ball often very tight to the hoop. However, he also needs to improve his low post repertoire, to eventually distort defenses by drawing double teams.
Haywood is an improving player who has the potential to develop into a significant inside presence, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Some scouts feel he has the ability to contribute in a similar fashion to Phoenix's Jake Tsakalidis.
Woods is a solid center prospect with good basketball skills and an athletic build.
He is still improving, but was a productive and important player for Arizona, helping lead the Wildcats to the Final Four. Woods recovered from two back surgeries in April, 2000 to be chosen First Team All-Pac 10 and Basketball News All-American Second Team.
The last two seasons Woods has improved his field goal efficiency and been among the nation's leading shot blockers. He shoots the jump hook well, has a decent spin move in the post and a little range up the lane. He needs to improve as a rebounder. He is built similar to Charlotte's P.J. Brown, but does not have Brown's versatility at both ends of the floor.
Woods was voted to the All-Final Four Team after scoring 22 points, pulling down 11 rebounds and blocking four shots in the NCAA championship game against Duke. He is a fifth-year senior after playing at Wake Forest during his freshman and sophomore years.
Collins is a versatile center with a decent touch facing the basket who will be able to carve out a nice NBA career. He has a history of both knee and hand injuries and missed most of both the 1997-1998 and 1998-1999 seasons. He has the height and bulk to match up against NBA bodies and the range to take big people away from the hoop. Last season he shot 61 percent from the field, 78 percent from the foul line, and 46 percent from beyond the college three-point arc. For his 73-game career at Stanford, he connected on a school record 60.8 percent of his shots.
Collins is a mature young man who will impress teams during interviews and individual workouts, which feature a lot of shooting exercises. He also intrigues teams with his potential to play alongside another big man as he has a lot of practice during a lifetime of playing next to his 7-0 twin brother, Jarron, who is also in this draft.
College: Seton Hall
Dalembert is an NBA-type athlete with the wingspan of a condor and the running ability of a deer, but is not as competitive or alert a player as he should be. If you watched warm-ups and the electricity went out before game time you would draft him in the Lottery. Unfortunately for him, the energy problems California faces didn't affect Northeastern venues where Seton Hall played, and questions persist as to his desire, passion for the game, and ability to someday reach his potential.
Dalembert doesn't have a low post game right now, but can make a short jump hook if he receives it in the middle of the paint from the high post. He does not have a comfortable or confident move from the blocks to the middle or the baseline and doesn't have a good feel for making an authoritative move out of the post. His hands are a bit suspect and he cannot put it on the floor in the paint without the strong possibility of losing it to a defender digging down in the post. He does not look like he has any playmaking skills out of the post or the ability to pass against any pressure. He had only 19 assists in 59 collegiate games at Seton Hall.
Defensively, Dalembert has the footwork to stay in front and be a very tough interior defender, but he doesn't appear to have the mental toughness to want to close down the lane consistently. He gives ground too easily. He has the potential to improve a great deal but he may lack the necessary "fire in his belly" to realize that potential.
College: Ohio State
The Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as both a senior and a junior, Johnson ranks fourth in NCAA history in blocked shots with 444. He has very good timing and instincts going after blocks. He is starting to develop a feel for shooting a last season averaged a career-high 12.5 points per game.
Johnson is a "specialist" right now, but all good teams need a defensive eraser around the hoop and Johnson could prove valuable at the back of some trapping zones that many teams are likely to employ next season.
College: Georgia Tech
A four-time member of the ACC All-Defensive Team, Jones is Georgia Tech's all-time leading shot blocker. He ranks fourth in ACC history in blocked shots behind only Tim Duncan, Ralph Sampson and Tree Rollins. This past season he was the 10th leading rebounder in college hoops, pulling down 10.4 rebounds a game.
Jones is a paint player with very little range offensively. He has some feel for shooting a tight turner and is familiar with setting his man up for an up-and-under move from the block, but he lacks touch and is not someone a team will look to for scoring. His game is running the court for hustle opportunities, using his body to fight for rebounding real estate or to deny a low post scorer his favorite scoring spots.
Jones needs to convince some team that he will provide toughness, rebounding and defense to secure a spot in the first round.
After a solid showing in Chicago at the NBA Pre-Draft Camp, Hunter is a prospect teams picking late in the first round are now discussing despite a two-year college career at DePaul that did not warrant first round consideration at all. He is a long player with good speed who has made a reputation for himself as a shot blocker and high percentage shooter.
Last season, Hunter led Conference USA in field goal percentage (.592%) and was the second leading shot blocker, swatting 2.4 a game. While he did have a few impressive performances during his two years at DePaul, (27 points and 10 rebounds vs. Charlotte as a freshman, 21 points and 10 reboounds against Duke as a freshman, 21 points and eight blocks against Houston last season) any team picking him will be doing so based on "potential" versus career "performance." But that is the case with the high school prospects also.
Individual workouts prior to the draft will determine whether a team will guarantee Hunter money by making him a first round selection. He has gained some muscle and weight in the last three months and appears more ready for NBA combat right now than at any time during his two years at DePaul.
(All photos courtesy of the Associated Press